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Giving Yourself To God

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Giving Yourself To God!

Sunday 3rd of February 2007

9 & 11am Services

Week 1 of 4

GIVING YOURSELF TO GOD

This morning, I want to talk with you about giving. And specifically about the key to godly giving. The reason I want to talk about giving today is that it’s a core part of being a Christian, its one of the very core aspects of being a Christian. We give our time, our gifts, our talents and our money to God in response and thankfulness for all that he has done for us.

 

The Bible is a book about giving.  The Bible talks more about giving than it does about either heaven or hell.  Jesus talked more about giving than almost any other subject.  Over half of His parables have to do with money.  There are more promises in the Bible related to giving than any other subject. 

1 Corinthians 16:2 "On the first day of every week set aside some of what you have earned and give it as an offering.  The amount depends on how much the Lord has helped you earn."

It says "the first day of every week".  When the church gathered together on the first day of the week they gave. That’s regularly. That mean that it was a consistent, regular habit for them.

Phillip Harman – an example of generous giving

He gave to us kids – and we had great joy, we felt so much excitement in receiving the gift, we loved him – because he showed his loves for us by giving us in giving us tangible, thoughtful, and generous gifts.

Paul wrote this letter to the church in Corinth and he wrote

“Since you excel in so many ways – you have so much faith, such gifted speakers, such knowledge, such enthusiasm, and such love for us – now I want you to excel also in this gracious ministry of giving.”

2 Corinthians 8: 7 (NLT)

Now the church in Corinth had a lot of problems. You’ll remember in 1 Corinthians Paul addresses with strong word toward different factions which had broken out in the church, some saying “I follow Apollos” and others “I follow Paul”. You’ll perhaps remember that there were real problems of sexual immorality occurring and there were people being greedy at the communion meal, feeding their faces even getting drunk while others went without because it was all gone. There were lost of problems but Paul says – “you have so much faith, such gifted speakers, such knowledge, such enthusiasm, and such love for one us…” So while there were problems Paul encouraged them that they were doing a lot of great things. They were doing a lot of things right.

In faith – they had a strong faith in God

Knowledge – they had a deep knowledge of the Scriptures

Such enthusiasm – they were full of zeal as they served God

And love – love was obvious to Paul.

I think what was true for them in many ways is true for us…

And don’t you think that’s true as well for us as a church. Like the church in Corinth we’ve had our share over the years of problem. But we have also the traits that Paul saw in the church in Corinth.

Paul would probably say we have strong faith in God. We have grown in faith. More than 50 years ago the church began here in Wodonga. It was a small country church. About 25 years later a small solid group members moved to the growing West of the city and began meeting in a home. What marked that group was faith. They prayed for people to come to know Christ and held evangelistic services and saw those they prayed for give their lives to Jesus and trust Him as their Lord and Saviour. One day they prayed for three more families to come and God answered their faith filled prayers. They took great steps of faith to move to the High School and then later to build the church building we are so thankful for. Its debt free, paid off completely. That’s faith. And right up until this day the church continues to put their faith and trust in God.

Paul might well say to us that we have a deep knowledge of the Scripture. This church has been in Wodonga now for more than 50 years. Some of you have been part of this church for 10, 20, 30 years. If these’s 52 weeks in a year, if you missed say two services over the year that would mean that you might hear 50 messages a year. In ten years you would hear 500 messages. Some of you have come morning an night for 10 years, that’s 1000 messages. Allen Cummins has been here since the early days so that’s 2,500 sermons but he comes at night too so that’s another 2,500 so 5,000 sermons in total he would have listened to! No wonder he’s tired!

Many of us have read God’s Word through from front to back more than once. If you’ve had your heart changed through faith in Christ and have obediently developed the habit of daily reading and prayer that 365 days a year prayerfully reading God’s Word.

We too have so many enthusiastic people – full of enthusiasm, willing to serve, ready to go, looking for opportunities, engaged in ministry, part of a  

Paul was saying to them – you have so much faith, there are gifted speakers among you, you’ve got lots of knowledge, heaps of enthusiasm, and such love for us. Well, now also excel in giving. Excel in the grace of giving.

Excel in the dictionary means to do better than others. It speaks of comparison. You need to be doing better than the ordinary to excel. You need to be very good to excel.

What was the context at Corinth?

Paul was a Jew and a Pharisee. School by the greatest Rabbias of his day. He was excellent at what he did, he was diligent. And when in came to the Christians Paul was diligent in persecuting them. He got letter of approval to have them thrown in jail. Yet on the road to the road to Damascus he came face to face with the risen Jesus.

He saw a light and he heard a voice saying “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” From that day on his life was changed. God spoke to Him on the road to Damascus and said “I want you to go to the Gentiles.” Now for Jewish people this was a paradigm shift – a whole new way of thinking. The Gentiles up until this point we’re seen as being favoured by God but now Paul was being sent to share the gospel with  them as a priority. This caused a lot of problems especially amongst the church in Jerusalem, and there came a time where Paul was brought before the Authorities to actually explain himself and what he was doing. This happens in Galatians 2 where Paul comes before the Jerusalem counsel. Why don’t we turn there now. 

Galatians Chapter 2:8-10…

For the same God who worked through Peter as the apostle to the Jews also worked through me as the apostle to the Gentiles.

In fact, James, Peter,* and John, who were known as pillars of the church, recognized the gift God had given me, and they accepted Barnabas and me as their co-workers. They encouraged us to keep preaching to the Gentiles, while they continued their work with the Jews. 10 Their only suggestion was that we keep on helping the poor, which I have always been eager to do.

Galatians 2:8-10 NLT

So Paul goes and speak to the heavies in Jerusalem and they all agree that it’s okay for Paul and Barnabas to go and share the gospel to the gentiles while James, Peter and John gave themselves to evangelising the Jewish people. So that’s what happened. And they said to Paul that the one thing they wanted Paul to do as he was going and that was to remember the poor.

Now at the time the Church in Jerusalem was in the heart of Roman occupied territory and Jewish people who had put their trust in Jesus were suffering. They didn’t have a lot of resources. It was dire strait for them. They didn’t have much money. So Jewish Christians found it very hard and struggled at that time. So when they say to Paul, “Look you’re going off to evangelise to the Gentiles, don’t forget the poor – we’re the struggling church in Jerusalem, the Jewish believers are struggling so when you’re going out to those rich Gentiles and they come to the Lord please don’t forget us. And Paul says, “Sure, I  was going to do that anyway, that’s fine.”

1 Corinthians 16:1-2 sees putting this into practice.

Now regarding your question about the money being collected for God’s people in Jerusalem. You should follow the same procedure I gave to the churches in Galatia. 2 On the first day of each week, you should each put aside a portion of the money you have earned. Don’t wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once. 3 When I come, I will write letters of recommendation for the messengers you choose to deliver your gift to Jerusalem.

So here’s Paul, telling the church in Corinth, “I’m going to be coming, so start to gether money on the first day of the week and we can give it on and when I come I can take it from you Gentile Church and I can take it from other churches that are Gentile churches and I can take it back to the church in Jerusalem and to other Jewish churches that can be blessed by your giving.

So why would Paul want to do this? I reckon there’s a few reasons.

Firstly the Gentiles had been blessed spiritually by the gospel that came from Jewish people. So they were thrilled when they heard it from the Jewish people. Their sharing of their faith to the Gentiles blessed them incredible so now Paul thinks it’s only right to say thanks through giving this gift so that they would be blessed.

Secondly it would be great for unity. Jews thought they were God chosen people and now the Gentiles were hearing the gospel and some Jews didn’t think it was right. Paul was say that by actually showing the way you’ve been blessed by the gospel, by excelling in giving you’ll create a lot of unity among the churches.

So that’s why Paul writes 2 Corinthians. He’s been writing the letter and he’s got right up to chapter 8 and now he starts to talk specifically about details and he’s encouraging the church in Corinth to actually give the money that they were going to give a year ago and do what they said they were going to and give. 

2 Corinthians 8:1-9

Now I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters,* what God in his kindness has done through the churches in Macedonia. 2 They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity.

For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will. 4 They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers* in Jerusalem. 5 They even did more than we had hoped, for their first action was to give themselves to the Lord and to us, just as God wanted them to do.

So we have urged Titus, who encouraged your giving in the first place, to return to you and encourage you to finish this ministry of giving. 7 Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and your love from us*—I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving.

I am not commanding you to do this. But I am testing how genuine your love is by comparing it with the eagerness of the other churches.

You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.

·        Give Generously to God

       Though they have been through much trouble and hard times, their wonderful joy and deep poverty have overflowed in rich generosity. For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford but far more.

2 Corinthians 8:2-3 (NLT)

Paul explains to the church in Corinth what had happened with the churches in Macedonian. This is an incredible church.  Though they were in deep poverty they gave with rich generosity.  Through much trouble. They gave beyond their ability.  This is the first financial principle of giving a tithe. 

People ask, "What if I can't afford to tithe?"  I say, "You can't afford not to."  If you want God's blessing on your finances, you need to give.  You need to obey what he's said. 

·        Give Joyfully to God

Though they have been through much trouble and hard times, their wonderful joy and deep poverty have overflowed in rich generosity.

2 Corinthians 8:2 (NLT)

“…For God loves the person who gives cheerfully.” 2 Corinthians 9:7 (NLT)

Bumper sticker:  "God loveth a cheerful give but He also accepteth from a grouch."  The Greek word for "cheerful" is the word we get our word "hilarious".  In the New Testament church, when they gave, it was hilarious.  In the modern church today, when you take the offering, that's the low point of the service.  If you cannot give cheerfully, don't give.  You don't get credit for giving that's not cheerful.  If you can't tithe cheerfully, what you need to work on is your attitude.  The Bible wants to look at your attitude. 

It makes me more like God, It draws me closer to God, It's the antidote to materialism, It strengthens my faith, It's an investment for eternity, It blesses me in return, It makes me happy.  When I begin to think about the benefits of it, I start getting joyful about it again.

 

•         Give Freely to God

“They did it out of their own free will. They begged us again and again for the gracious privilege of sharing in the gift of the Christians in Jerusalem. Best of all, they went beyond our highest hopes…”

2 Corinthians 8:3-5 (NLT)

 

The church was incredible. Even thought they were in hard time, they joyfully gave and gave freely without compulsion. No-one needed to pressure them.

“Don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure.” 2 Corinthians 9:7 (NLT)

As your pastor, I want to relieve a little bit of guilt, never give under pressure.  The Scripture says you are to never give under pressure.  You're to give willingly, not reluctantly.  If you feel pressured to give, you can say, "My pastor said I wasn't supposed to give."  Because the Bible says if you give under pressure it's not the kind of giving God wants.  You don't give to make up a budget deficit, you give because God says so whether the church needs it or not.  The issue is I need to give for my own benefit.

 

•         Give Yourselves to God

       “Best of all, they went beyond our highest hopes, for their first action was to dedicate themselves to the Lord and to us for whatever directions God might give them.” 2 Corinthians 8:5 (NLT)

 

This is really the issue.  If God owns me, He's going to own my wallet.  If He doesn't own my heart, He doesn't own my wallet.  I need to first give myself to the Lord.

This is the key

Roman 12:1-3


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* Greek Cephas; also in 2:11, 14.

* Greek brothers.

* Greek for God’s holy people.

* Some manuscripts read your love for us.

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